CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION K1, IRAQ
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION K1, Iraq – On the battlefield of modern U.S. Military operations, combat engineers play a versatile role. One week they are sweeping for Improvised Explosive Devices, and the next, teaching Iraqi soldiers how to zero and qualify with their newly assigned M16 rifles.
As a platoon leader on his first deployment, responsible for dozens of combat engineers deployed to northern Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn, 1st Lt. Anthony Burch, a platoon leader assigned to Company C, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Division, leads “Devil” Brigade soldiers, ensuring his platoon remains trained, focused and motivated every day.
“I’ve had to learn how to motivate people in a way I didn’t see coming,” said Burch, a Hoopeston, Ill., native. “It is not in the heat of battle you have to motivate somebody; it’s when people are bored, or when people are tired of doing the same job day in and day out—that is when you really need to motivate soldiers to keep them from getting complacent, to keep them from doing something irresponsible.”
Burch attended the University of Illinois with a scholarship from the Reserve Officer Training Corp and graduated with a degree in anthropology. During his time at UI, Burch also met his wife, Mary Pat, who works in advertising for the Chicago Tribune.
In 2009, Burch began his military career as a platoon leader in the STB’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, before taking over responsibility of 4th platoon as soldiers of 1st AATF began training for their deployment.
In October of 2010, 4th platoon initially contributed to the deployment as a route clearance team, nightly inspecting roads frequently traveled by American troops for IEDs.
Undertaking this responsibility helped many of the younger, untested soldiers in the platoon gain a level of experience and proficiency they will need to further themselves in the Army, Burch said.
“We have definitely all grown up a lot during this deployment,” said Burch. “I pride myself in saying that this platoon is extremely mature.”
“Our attitude isn’t ‘Let’s go to Iraq and get in a bunch of fire-fights,’” he explained. “It’s ‘We are going to go to Iraq and support this government as it sets itself up.’ I am very proud of my platoon.”
At the end of March, Burch’s platoon handed off their route clearance mission to begin working with 12th Iraqi Army Stability Transition Team in the Kirkuk province, providing security as the STT worked with their 12th IA counterparts.
Burch said his soldiers often have the opportunity to take part in the training, mentoring the Iraqi soldiers as they prepare to take full responsibility for the security mission in Iraq.
“Our job out here at K1 gives my guys the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the Iraqi soldiers,” said Burch. “They are the primary mission in Iraq right now, and it is good to be a part of it.”
Spc. Clayton Martin, a combat engineer assigned to Burch’s platoon, said the unit’s primary mission at COL K1 is escorting the STT members as they counteract with the 12th IA soldiers.
As he continues assisting the 1st AATF mission, Martin said he enjoys the guidance and leadership Burch provides to the Soldiers of 4th platoon.
“It’s not as crazy with random stuff happening out here. We’ve got a good battle rhythm with stuff we have to accomplish on a day to day basis,” said Martin, who hails from Frenchtown, Mo. “Lt. Burch is easy to work for. He’s pretty straight forward and says what’s on his mind, and he makes this seem too easy.”
Burch said he is eager to experience more of what the Army has to offer as his career continues after his deployment with Company C.
“I don’t know if I will stay in until retirement,” he said. “But I want to experience what the Army has to offer. I want to be a company commander; I have always wanted to be a teacher, so I would like to look for positions in the Army that would allow me train others.”
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